TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT

BLINDED BY TRUST

By: Karen B.

Summary: Episode -- Bloodbath

A series of 200 word drabbles connecting -- to tell the story.

Plus bonus -- Missing scene snippet.

Merle

pov

"Peanuts, man. Peanuts. So, Hutchinson wants to throw down with 'The Earl'

"What'd that jive chump say?"

'Even for free, you aint' for me.'

"Say what!"

Hutchinson doesn't scare me.

The Earl don't do clear-cut tune-ups. I got's to keep my reputation alive and breathin'.

Maybe Starsky's blond haired, pale eyed partner can charm the panties off a nun, but he ain't got no hold over this ar…tist.

Forget, you Hutchinson. The Earl's going to share his customizing talents -- and it ain't gona be free.

I don't need Prince Charming telling me how to deal with this rotting pumpkin. No carriage should ever be so neglected. I've seen jail cell toilets look'n sweeter.

If Hutchinson won't show his car a little T.L.C. -- Earl will.

"Don't you worry your ugly little Ford hub caps, baby. You and 'The Earl' are going to have us a little lo…ve party."

I could airbrush you cabbage soup green, but instead I think I'll just make a few modifications -- nothing festive. No fuzzy dash, no air horn, and I'll skip the hula girl that shakes when you drive.

Hutchinson has to learn -- within the cracks of ghetto walls -- flowers grow.

Reporter

pov

"No comment," Hutchinson flatly stated not raising an eyebrow.

"No comment," I muttered in disgust. That was about the zillionth time during this high profile case I'd heard those words.

I watched the two detectives strut purposely down the hallway and out of site.

I'm tired of talking, trying to squeeze every last fact out of closed lips. Dogged persistence has only gotten me bugs in my open mouth.

What's a man have to do to make a living in this town?

My mother told me not to move out west.

In my pursuit for perfection -- I didn't listen.

Starsky and Hutchinson are a couple of heroes who don't want to be known as heroes. Doling out information like the government doles out free money. I was scrapping the bottom of the barrel. This roving reporter would do better going in search of and interviewing SasQuatch.

Still, the sentencing of the notoriously, dangerous, Simon Marcus was worth a second, maybe even a third try.

Suddenly, the hysteria around me quieted. Like the decline of the Roman Empire, Simon's gathering of followers packed up their kitting beads and left.

'No comment'… my journalistic ass…ets.

I'll get that interview. Someway. Somehow.

Starsky

pov

"I'll be right back."

I ran out the door and down the hall to the bathroom going straight to the first stall.

Pissing before sentencing wasn't just good luck -- it was necessity.

Just as I flushed, I heard a shuffle of noisy feet come through the doorway.

Probably Dobey telling me to get my superstitious ass back in that courtroom.

"Can't you give a guy a minute," I grumbled.

Before I could take one step away from the toilet, the door was kicked open and a surge of hands drug me out.

I got a quick glance at the upturned cross on one of the freak's foreheads.

"Oh man," I groaned, as one of them grabbed a chunk of curls and slammed my head painfully into the sink sending me to my belly.

Twittering birds circled my head like some crazy cartoon.

A foot touched down hard on my back. I flipped over, grabbed an ankle, and jerked the man off balance.

Instantly up on my feet, like a wild man I got in several smooth moves before a club hit the side of my face, dropping me to the floor like a dying star falling from the sky.

Simon

pov

My judge, jury, and executioners were delusional. Simon can never die. Death in this world only meant freedom and more power in another.

They could lock me away for life, but could never take away my dreams.

Nobody ever understood me. Without dreams, life was just life.

In my dreams I pictured every detail of how things should be, could make them happen just by thinking them. I don't sleep much, and can't shut-off my brain, so most my dreams are dreamt awake. Terrible, awful things to most -- not so for me.

Hutchinson is a fool. He thinks he's won. In five seconds, his world was about to change.

I smiled to myself as the judge read the note that was just handed to him.

I counted the bailiff's footsteps. One. Two. Three.

Listened to the sound of the paper as the note was opened.

I waited one second, glancing back over my shoulder staring straight into Hutchinson's eyes. His expression was a mixture of shock and disbelief.

I watched his breath catch.

Felt his heart skip a beat, knowing the game had started.

Hutchinson was no white knight.

He was the fly -- and I was the swatter.

Hutch

pov

"Where's all the cops?"

My footsteps echoed and boomed through the empty hallway like a thousand man march.

Stepping through the men's room door sent a turbulent rush of air brushing my hair back. I expected to see Starsky using the urinal, washing his hands, straightening his tie, struggling with his fly. It only took me a second to make several observations. Starsky wasn't here, and I suddenly felt sick. The sight greeting me sent a shockwave through my entire body.

"No," I whispered, my heart trying to lunge out from behind my ribs. "Starsk." I stared at my reflection through the blood covered mirror.

A hazy white vapor started to blur my eyesight. Taking in a deep breath, I fought off the dizzy feeling, stumbled toward the door, and poked my head out.

"Get me some fucking cops down here!" I shouted, my voice full of terror and adrenaline.

One courtroom guard appeared and headed my way.

"Seal off this entire building. Now!" I bellowed. "Detective Starsky is missing! Nobody goes in there until the crime lab team gets here," I ordered.

One last half-glance at the mirror told me the blood was already cold and starting to dry.

Dobey

pov

"One of my men has just been kidnapped!" I bellowed into the mike.

I knew what was happening. Why it was happening. And who it was happening to.

But all my senses coming into play had kicked into adrenaline fueled overdrive. My mind raced as fast as my breath. If that was Starsky's blood -- he may already be -- I couldn't bring myself to think the word.

The one cold fact I couldn't handle was one of my best detectives being taken right out from under my nose. I felt like a kid standing in his front yard watching the passing traffic run over his ball -- and I couldn't do anything to stop it.

Whether you're the captain of detectives or a rookie. Whether it's your first missing officer, or hundred and fiftieth didn't matter. It comes down to one thing -- you are human. And controlling those emotions wasn't always easy.

I took a deep breath, seeing Hutchinson heading my way down the courthouse steps. We couldn't have two loaded guns on scene. I turned and hit the roof of the cruiser with my fist.

"Calm down, Harold," I whispered to myself. "Take it by the book."

Hutch

pov

There was a thin blue line that always separated the law from crime. It took every ounce of my self-control not to step over that line.

"First of all let me…let me explain to you what you've gotten yourself into, here." I gripped the phone tighter.

My gut was telling me to scream. To swear. To reach my hand into that phone, seize this guy by the neck, drag him through the line, and shake the life out of him until he told me where my partner was.

Instead, I listened to my brain, took a calming breath, keeping my voice smooth, serene and logical.

Christ, was I a street cop or fucking Mr. Spock?

I continued talking, explaining, willing time to be on my side, all the while terrified of what they might have already done to Starsky.

"No more talk. Now you think on this. If you sentence Simon Marcus, you sentence Starsky to death."

Click!

The line went dead.

It only took a fraction of a second to realize, I hadn't kept the scum talking long enough.

"There's not enough time for a tracer."

"I know that, captain," I said, with a sense of irretrievable despair.

Dobey

pov

I listened to Hutch struggle, desperate to keep the fear from his voice and the caller on the line.

For a fraction of a second I thought of my partner, Elmo. I had waltzed this same waltz years ago. Elmo was missing. We'd gotten a call. A location. By the time we got to him, it was too late.

I'd found my partner hanging from a meat hook, a puddle of blood on the floor. I'd taken two steps forward to get a better look at his face. His mouth was duct taped, eyes wide, his badge pinned to his bare chest. For a moment I didn't believe what I was seeing.

He was dead.

If it wasn't for Edith, or my faith, I think I'd be dead too. Or boozing it up at some long forgotten party.

Impossible as it was, I gave Elmo my word -- never to let anything like that ever happen to another officer.

"Let me talk to Starsky. I want to know he's all right." Hutch flinched, and his shoulders sagged as he swallowed his own breath.

A shudder ran through my body and soul. I'd given my word.

"What do they want?"

Hutch

pov

"They want the moon," I said, my head spinning at an unbearable speed.

Dobey looked grim. He knew what that meant. So did I.

"Hutch."

"I know," I said, doing my best not to let my voice crack.

We both stood there a moment letting reality hang over us. How were we going to get Starsky back? My anger simmered, hot confusion and loss blistering my heart. Even if we could release Marcus, I knew what Starsky would want. He would never want that two-bit punk back out on the streets. Even if it meant his life.

"Hutch, you know…" Dobey interrupted my reverie "If I could give them the moon…"

My grandfather could pluck the moon from the sky and put it in his pocket. It was a game he and I used to play. I could still see his smiling face looking down on me and that mischievous twinkle in his eyes. We sat on the front porch steps playing that game for hours.

"The moon." My eyes met Dobey's "They can't land on it, but we can."

"You think he'll talk?" Dobey asked as we both spurred into action.

"He has to. Starsky's life depends on it."

Kidnapper

pov

Hutchinson didn't know crap. What we'd gotten ourselves into was beyond any pig cop's understanding.

The speed limit changed and we slowed down, as the cops were swarming around like cockroaches.

A loud racket made me turn around, and I stared down into a sea of blue.

Starsky was awake and thrashing about. "You bastard's!" His high pitched voice bounced off the interior.

"Shut him up right now!" I ordered.

My comrade in arms was having a hard time getting a hold of the violently protesting cop. Even though he had the pig by his throat in a death grip, Starsky wouldn't give it up.

He was choking and swearing at the same time the very life was being squeezed out of him.

"Don't kill him!" I ordered. "Just keep him quiet. Simon didn't dream he'd die yet."

Half conscious, Starsky was still fighting, breathing harshly, and babbling about how we'd never make it.

He took two hard punches. One to his gut, and one to his jaw, before he was silenced.

Man, this was going to be fun. He wouldn't go down easy like the others.

I had to laugh. Simon or no Simon… this pig was dead meat.

Marcus

pov

I sat in a small dark room behind a heavy steel door.

They all told me such a barbaric, heinous, man should not exist.

I told them…

Hell should not exist -- but it does.

The door swung open, a man stepped in, paused, then snicked the door shut.

Despite the lack of lighting, the room brightened like the morning sun.

Hutchinson slowly turned to me. Wordlessly he stalked back and forth, tracking me with his eyes. Eyes that held a blood-thirsty look. He didn't flinch, didn't swallow, didn't back down, or look away like the other's always did.

Maybe, I was wrong. I had to credit him. Maybe, he was the 'white knight' after all.

That wouldn't help him. Hutchinson went by cop rules. No matter how much he wanted to tear me apart -- he wouldn't. Couldn't.

I watched his mind click, his world tilt, and I crawled inside.

He wanted one thing. The dope on Starsky.

I would give it to him, but he would never understand.

Starsky was my heavenly Polaris, my beautifully captured butterfly. I was the spider who'd wrapped him tightly in my silk web.

When I was ready -- I would finish him off.

Starsky

pov

I fell to my knees, blindfolded, unable to see a thing. A hand reached out and yanked me to my feet.

"Simon. Simon."

I didn't have to see their faces to know all eyes were on me. I could feel them invading my mind. Could feel Simon's evil swoop down on me like a wild bird of prey, his talons digging into my soul.

"I'm a cop!" I yelled fiercely. "Are you nuts?" Something large and hard slammed into my side. "Ahhh!" I dropped to the ground.

"Simon. Simon."

Someone crouched next to me, grabbed a hand full of hair and pulled my head back.

"When the time is right, cop…" a male voice spoke above the chanting. "We are going to cut you into pieces." The edge of a cold steel blade was poised below my chin. "Simon dreamed your death." The blade pressed inward.

"Fuck, Simon!" I gasped, feeling a trickle of blood rush down my neck.

"Fuck you, cop," he said evenly, removing the blade only to bring its hilt down on the back of my head.

"Ughnnn!" The impact sent me to my belly.

Blinded by trust, calming my panic, I mumbled into the dirt, "Hutch."

Hutch

pov

Never underestimate the power of evil.

Simon had his followers believing in his dreams so deeply, they were so blinded by trust they couldn't help themselves -- let alone help me.

Starsky and I had that kind of blind trust, but not because we didn't have minds of our own. Right now the distance between us was killing me.

I stood just outside the storefront door, a server headache building behind my eyes. My world was falling apart, but around me life went on. I took a breath watching a van drive down the street. I was beyond exhausted, but the constant flow of adrenaline kept me in hyper-drive.

Rounding the Torino, not sure what to do next, I opened the door. I guessed I'd go …

Before I could slide in behind the wheel, I froze. Someone had dropped a ticking black box onto the seat.

The ticking grew faster… I backpedaled.

The lid popped open.

Reflexively I turned away, shielding my face with my arm, but the blast never came.

Confused, I turned and stared into the demented face of a pop-up-toy holding a policemen's badge -- my mind crunching the fact the tin was Starsky's.

"Fuck."

Dobey

pov

Hutch held tight to Starsky's badge, a profile of courage and strength -- but I knew better.

He kept a cool expression, but I swore I could feel the stones inside his heart rattle.

I stood by his side, scared, praying, watching, as he waited to hear what the lab boys had to say about all that blood.

As prepared as Hutch was, bad news would be a sudden blow, sending him to his knees.

My own heart jabbed at my ribcage. If it was Starsky's blood -- chances were he was already dead.

My fingers jerked and quivered. Over the years I'd learned to build rock solid mountains around my emotions keeping them secure. Today, I was having a hard time keeping my mountains from crumbling like sand.

As Hutchinson stood listening to the lab on the other end of the phone, the seconds crawled like hours. With this job you never knew what to expect. Death and heartache were as much a constant companion to an officer as was his gun and badge.

Hutch finally hung up the phone, still gripping tight to Starsky's I.D.

"Well?" I fidgeted impatiently.

"It's not Starsky's blood," Hutch said softly.

"Thank, God."

Starsky

pov

Only half-awake I heard the jangling sound of metal chiming in my ears. The last thing I remembered was sucking dirt into my mouth.

I was on my butt, leaning against a rough rocky surface. How long I'd been staring into empty darkness -- I didn't know. What I did know was my head hurt like a line drive up the middle bounced off my skull, or the little white ball got stuck there.

The golf ball must have cracked open. I felt a sticky ooze slide down the side of my throat.

What happened?

I tried not to think past the pain.

My mouth was dry, my arms and legs weak. I tried to move my hands but they were glued behind my back.

Man, Hutch was going to hate what Merle was about to do to his car. Wasn't I due in court? Didn't I have to pee?

I stared into a pretty pair of eyes. Was I on a date and had fallen asleep during dessert?

"I didn't think you'd wake up. But you did."

Everything came back in a rush.

Date, my ass.

Stupid, the things you think of when your life is on the line.

Gale

pov

"I'm going to give you a bath," I said, butcher knife rising, popping one button at a time.

He needed to be purified.

Simon had dreams, and this was one of them. Me, I didn't have dreams of my own. I dreamt only what Simon told me to dream, having long ago stopped feeling and thinking anything other than what I was taught to feel and think.

The deep blue of this stranger's eyes made my heart flutter and my breath quicken. Simon had not dreamt that.

His clothes removed, I helped him up and over to the bath.

"Nice tub," he said, eyes downcast. He seemed shy, like a fourteen -year- old boy, standing naked, both hands cupping his manhood. "You press your own wine in that thing?"

"Simon does not allow drinking."

He stumbled. I held tight, as he used the stepstool entering the water.

"You do everything Simon asks?" He drew a breath exhaling slowly.

"Of course." I poured a bucket of hot water over his head.

I felt bad for him. For what was to come. I could do nothing as I went to the other side of the cave -- like Simon dreamed I would.

Crow's

pov

I moved out here taking on this farm to get away from the likes of those varmints. Now, I may as well pack up my belongings and go live in the hollowed out oak tree behind Jenkin's shed.

The cops didn't care about my livestock Back in the day a man would hang for less.

I glanced out a window. Hutchinson was still milling around. Not leaving this barn 'till he's gone. I felt for the guy, he looked battle weary, but I had my own problems to look after.

I could tell Hutchinson exactly where those creeps were held up. I'd followed them to the old zoo the night I caught them butchering my first bull. That'd be a fools undertaking, earning me more fucking dead animals. The count was already two too many.

Slaughtering beef for anything other than short ribs was a crime. Leaving nothing but a head attached to a mutilated body was evil doing.

I shuddered, something didn't feel right.

"What the cotton-pickin' …"

I spied a black box behind my wheel barrel. Just great. That woman of mine bought more junk with money not earned, and hid it in here so I wouldn't…

Ka…Boom!

Hutch

pov

To say the fiery blast took me by surprise -- was an understatement.

The world didn't make sense.

Clutching at straw and dirt, I inched myself up to hands, elbows, then knees.

Thinking I'd been dropped straight into hell, I clambered to my feet, both hands going to my head. Felt like my eyes were bulging, and beads of sweat popped out on my upper lip. I ran my tongue over my teeth, making sure they were all still there.

I thought about running into the barn after the rancher. Taking in a deep breath, and smelling burning wood and flesh made me realize that was ludicrous.

Logic was a tiny voice niggling in my buzzing ears -- Crow was dead. I was lucky I wasn't.

Everything swam before my eyes. Starsky was out there, he needed me and all I could do was keep landing on my butt.

'You won't hurt me. You're the White Knight.' Simon's voice boomed inside my head.

My vision suddenly cleared, and I saw a familiar black van on top a hillside. The world started to make sense again.

"Hold on, Starsk," My voice broke, as I hopped the fence, darting for the Torino.

Hutch

pov

Holding my breath, armed and ready, I crept through the weeds tiptoeing closer toward the abandoned van.

The glint of the sun bouncing off hot metal made me strain to see.

Be there, Starsk.

Be there.

And… be alive.

I bent lower, scared that if those freaks were inside the van they might see me coming.

'Don't see me.' I hunched over, the tall weeds making my nose itch.

Holding back a sneeze, I pressed up against the back of the van, my heart pounding.

I was out in the middle of nowhere, no backup, edgy, scared to death of what I might find behind those double black doors.

An army of Simon's freaks.

Another bomb.

A dead partner.

Or all the above -- a bad combination.

I let out the breath I'd been holding, took one step, gripped tight to the handle, and yanked the door open keeping my gun hand as steady as I could.

Nothing.

Empty.

In frustration, I turned and walked away, stopped, and scanned the area.

I barely heard the birds chirping over my ragged breathing.

Starsky may already be dead.

Quickly shoving that thought to the back of my head, I holstered my gun.

Starsky pov

With a degree of urgency, I closed my eyes working the ropes to free my bound wrists. I struggled to hold back a hiss of pain as Gale poured bucket's of warm water over my head.

Seconds passed. The cave was quiet, only the sound of water dripping from my hair. I peaked open one eye. Realizing I was alone, I stood, nabbed a towel, wrapped the cloth around my waist, and cautiously exited the tub.

Fighting against my weakness, I exchanged the wet towel for a cute little black number.

Like a glorified human-sized rat trying to escape the exterminator, I scurried through the maze. Shivering against the cool air flowing up under my new wardrobe, I wondered where I was. The ambience in this place made me think it might be the center of hell. Knowing Marcus the way I did, I suspected my assumption might not be all that far off.

My legs felt like those flimsy colored pipe cleaners Nick and I used to make stick animals out of when we were kids. Taking in a deep breath, I kept moving. Rounding the next bend I hoped to find fresh air and freedom -- no dice.

Starsky

pov

Rounding the corner I froze, coming face to face with a bear.

I felt like a wet firecracker, wanting to explode, but knew I couldn't. Hutch told me once on one of our campouts, when encountering a large animal the key was to stay calm, not to panic, or make direct eye contact. That you should back away slowly.

I told Hutch, running for your life would be way more effective.

I felt my legs twitch. I wanted to run right now, but knew better. No way I could outrun a bear, not in these pajamas. I had to protect myself somehow if Yogi did decide to charge.

As slowly and as unthreatening as I could be, I bent over picking up a really big rock -- wishing it was a really big gun.

If there was a tree to climb, I would have opted for that. Bears can't climb. Can they?

Don't panic.

Shit.

I'm panicking.

Don't make eye contact.

Shit.

We made eye contact.

"Careful, he bites."

"So do I," I said, wondering what a mouthful of bear fur would taste like.

Yogi suddenly turned and left. I threw down my rock, relieved I'd never have to know.

Keeper Of the Flame

pov

This was my favorite of all Simon's dreams. Getting to play ball with the pig cop's head. Hearing his shuffling footsteps, I raised my torch turned baseball bat. My timing was perfect as I connected with the ball, hearing the sizzling sound of cooking flesh. Starsky cursed sounding more like a belligerent sailor rather than the law abiding, good guy he pretended to be.

Starsky flambé', my favorite.

My bat now turned hockey stick, I went after Starsky again. I could feel the killer inside of me bubbling to the surface, but held back. Simon didn't dream the pig would die at my hand.

I wanted to override that dream, but as a servant of Simon that was a pleasure I couldn't act upon. After tomorrow, when Starsky was dead, I, the keeper of the flame would enjoy setting his chopped up pig parts completely aflame. It wasn't the exact vengeance I was hoping to enjoy, but charbroiling a dead cop would have to do.

Feigning injury, I let Starsky escape my flame for now. I sat up smiling. Starsky ran like a little lost boy looking for his mother. Little did the pig know, -- mommy was already dead.

Starsky

pov

Hands fumbling, scrapping, gripping sharp granite walls, I climbed the stone steps toward the light.

Dizzily, I leaned against the doorjamb catching my breath and tasting freedom. I had managed to crawl out of a oversized tub of water, kept a very large bear from dining out, and only lost partial sight in one eye during my encounter with the keeper of the flame.

I was confused. Missing heartbeats, gasping for breath, struggling not to fall to my knees and roll backward down the stairway.

Mad, scared, and wondering which way to go next, I was surprised when strong fingers gripped my curls and yanked my head back.

"We ain't nothing, man!" The freak growled. "We're your executioners."

Too weak to fight, I was hauled back inside my special place in hell, where Marcus's followers began demonstrating their own brand of justice all over again.

Painfully fast and hard blows came to the back of my knees, slamming me to the dirty cave floor. Curling into a ball, in a quivering broken heap, I fought the hammering agony of fists and feet. The taste of freedom -- now the taste of blood.

And I thought I'd gotten lucky -- stupid bastard.

Dobey

pov

Chasing our tails into the sunset was exactly what we'd been doing, and that sun was setting on Starsky's life.

Hutch had been letting his feelings for Starsky cloud his judgement, just now realzing what I'd known all along. It never was about the sentencing. Anger blocked my vision, my men looked like they were working at a sloth's pace.

In frustration, I yelled, "Move your butts! Get me those prints!" I gestured with a wave of my hand.

Everyone responded as if my hand were a lethal weapon, moving out of sloth mode, avoiding my steady gaze. They were good men. Working hard. Doing their jobs, but it wouldn't matter. I'd been a cop long enough to know they wouldn't find anything.

Hutch was going to talk to Marcus again. It was not only his best shot -- it was his only shot.

"Captain," Willfer called. "We got nothing. Not a smudge."

" Keep looking! Find me something! Detective Starsky's life depends on it." I got into my car, driving off.

"He's dead," I whispered, seeing Elmo's face.

Those words stuck in my head all the way back to the station.

Now who's judgment was clouded?

Marcus

pov

"For the king of the forest…is dead." I smiled.

Cold, hard reality hit the White Knight in the face as if I'd reached out a hand and smacked him.

Hutchinson sat rooted to his seat in shock, pale blue eyes watering over. I had him. Where I dreamed he would be. Tired. Scared. Confused.

I continued to stare until the shine in his eyes no longer held fear, but hatred. He gave me a look that would have set any normal person's eyeballs on fire.

Hutchinson wanted to rip me apart. Crush me, like a half-smoked cigarette to the street and send me to hell. But he wouldn't -- couldn't.

Besides, even if he did. Hadn't Hutchinson noticed? Hell was where I wanted to be.

While most dreamed of heaven, fluffy clouds, pearly gates, and angels with harps. I dreamed of hellfire, pitchforks, and the kingdom of the eternally damned.

I wondered how many others were like me. I had only found a handful of followers. Those who would listen to my dreams. Those who would serve, Mephistopheles.

I can see something else in Hutchinson's eyes. My dream blade has made an incision in his heart and red liquid flows.

Gale

pov

He looked helpless, so beaten down. His head was bleeding and his body twitched in pain. It was coming near the end, and I felt my insides coming apart. He didn't deserve this. Nobody deserved this. I wanted to apologies to him, place my hand to his brow and tell him it was all going to be all right. Some unspoken dream, that I couldn't recall, told me I wouldn't have that chance.

Mindful of the other's watching, all I could do was offer the most basic of needs -- water.

"Better?" Was all I could say.

"Yeah, that's terrific. Let's send out for pizza."

I understood the rumble in my stomach, but barely could remember what pizza tasted like. What I didn't understand was his smile. He was in so much discomfort and facing death, yet he could smile.

A strange butterfly feeling replaced the rumble in my stomach. I wanted to cup his cheek in my hand, clean the dirt from his face with a warm cloth.

He looked sick, grunting his suffering.

I wanted to kiss him.

The edge of regret was a sharp blade. I would never kiss a man again.

"What's the matter with him?"

Starsky

pov

"The water." I closed my eyes and curled into a ball.

I wanted to sleep or maybe pass out, but the pain was like a jagged-edged knife cutting into my gut.

"Why must it always be so cruel?" Tiny hands gripped my legs, but the ache only got worse as my stomach muscles contracted.

"Hutch where are--" My voice broke. I brought my knees to my chest, curling tighter into myself. "You?"

I wanted to cry. Maybe I did. I know I puked. I could smell the vomit. Everything was twisted and distorted as if I was looking at the world through eyes ten times bigger than my own.

My heart beat faster and faster. What was going on?

"You're going to die."

There's a clue.

"No more dreaming," Gale muttered over and over.

"Ughnnn." I clenched my teeth against the pain.

I just wanted Hutch to find me and take me home.

"Hutch," I wheezed.

'Hold on.' I heard Hutch's voice in my head. 'I'm coming.'

My legs started shaking, then my arms, fingers and toes. My whole body quivering and convulsing.

"Hutch. I need you."

I heard a woman cry.

Heard more grunts.

Then there was black silence.

Hutch

pov

Just decipher Simon's code, and save Starsky's life. Easy, huh?

Maybe if you came from the planet that freak lived on, cracking the code would be easy.

I sighed.

Dobey's office was dark, full of gloom and doom. I tiredly slouched down in my seat, leaned my pounding head back against my chair, and stared at the ceiling desperate to untangle Simon's words.

What was he talking about?

Begin at the end.

The end of a street?

The end of the rainbow?

The end of life?

My partner's life.

Pain flashed behind my eyes. I didn't have time for a migraine.

The image of all that blood, dripping in slow motion down that mirror made me feel sick. I had to keep reminding myself it wasn't Starsky's blood.

I swallowed hard. Dobey and Huggy looked at me but didn't say a word.

I'd barely eaten, drank, or pissed in the last twenty-two hours. I certainly hadn't slept. I've kept my eyes wide open. Searching, begging, waiting for any crumb of information to fall off Simon's table.

All stories started at the beginning.

Simone wanted me to start at the end.

Dobey

pov

My head was spinning, sending a code-red signal to my stomach. Edith always told me not to eat at ungodly hours. The pain moved from my gut to my heart, and for a moment I saw Starsky's smiling, mischievous face. That boy could Shan high my patience, sending my simmering blood pressure blasting through rock faster than my own son ever could.

Yet, I loved the man like a son.

Sitting in my dark office, listening to a tape reordering, in hibernation, made me want to forget the department's policy on negotiating with kidnappers. Yet, I knew releasing Marcos wasn't the answer.

Hutch was fussing around my desk. I could tell this was getting harder and harder on him.

"What are you looking for?" I caught his eye.

He looked like a schoolboy. Young. Scared. I wondered how I could help him should the worst happen.

"Got any aspirin?"

"Yeah," I said, my fingers going straight to the bottle.

I wanted to say something to ease Hutch's pain.

Knowing nothing would, I continued to try and dissect and unravel Simon's words.

I was on the verge of something, when a blast of light painfully shut my brain down.

"Huggy! Please!"

Huggy

pov

"Well, that's what I was trying to recollect. Stony and Rex used to cook up junk there. They had a traveling lab at the old civic zoo."

My two exhausted comrades flew out of the gate before the buzzer went off.

"Don't thank me," I grumbled, taking another sip of coffee and staring out the office blinds.

I didn't care. I didn't need to be thanked for my brilliance. I just needed Hutch to get lucky, get their skates on, and get to that partner of his. Now. Pronto. Immediately.

From my window seat, I watched Dobey and Hutch rush along the row of cars to get to the Torino.

I shuddered to think of what Simon's worshipers were capable of. They would cut Starsky into unrecognizable bite-sized pieces. They're a sick, messed up bunch of chumps. Simon's hand could reach from beyond the grave if he had to. Once you were marked by the high-priest you became his property -- forever.

Hutch peeled out of the parking lot, like the Lone Ranger upon his stallion.

Would he get to Starsky on time?

Setting my mug down, I stood and shut the blinds.

Did the sun set in Montego Bay?

Starsky

pov

Arching my back, I half-spun staring skyward. The sun was shining through the trees, it was the morning of Simon's sentencing, and Hutch hadn't found me. Even if he did -- he couldn't give these freaks the moon.

Déjà vu hit hard, as once again Simon's followers circled me, only this time there was no blindfold to shield me from seeing my fate.

I cursed under my breath, my feet scrapping along the rough ground, my heart beating at an impossible rate. My executioners stood quietly babbling their leaders name, each armed with a weapon.

Chains. Hatchets. Knives.

How many sharp instruments did it take to chop one cop into pieces? I didn't want to hang around long enough to find out. But hanging around was all I could do.

My hands were helplessly tied together and I was strung up like a prized stag about to have its belly slit open.

A rock or something sharp sticking up out of the ground jabbed me in the foot, but I didn't make a sound. Looking down, I saw Gale, on her knees, holding a large knife stabbing-style.

Every muscle quivered with weakness, pain, fear.

I wasn't going to make it.

Hutch

pov

I wasn't sure we had enough man power as we pulled up to the old zoo. Three black and whites, and the Torino, added up to six uniformed cops, one captain of detectives, and a 'white knight' want-to-be.

I could almost hear Starsky calling out my name, his voice haunting me. I jumped from my car racing ahead of everyone.

I had an awful feeling if I didn't step on it, I'd be too late.

Rounding a large tree, I saw a platform, several robbed figures, and in the center strung up by his hands was a man.

A huge chasm of grass separated me from the man in the center circle. I ran, never taking my focus off of him.

"Almost there," I panted, feeling large drops of sweat slowly slip down my back. "Hold on."

My legs went weak when I saw the man fall to the ground. "Starsk," I muttered.

I climbed up the platform, considering the fact those freaks may have already cut out his heart just like the other victims. That didn't just scare me -- that terrified me.

Charging in, I saw knifes.

I saw robbed figures.

I saw my partner -- still alive.

Starsky

pov

"No, Gale. No," I repeated, sensing her confusion.

Simon's henchman continued chanting their tribal song, near jumping out of their robes to hack-off a piece of the cop.

Things were looking very bad.

Gale came at me with the knife, and I couldn't help but wince awaiting the burning slice of her blade. It took a second for my brain to register she had cut the rope instead and I'd fallen.

.

My eyes rolled to the back of my head, fighting back the urge to blackout.

I was dehydrated, a mishmash of bruises and broken ribs. This was a game of survival of the fittest and I'd lost. I could barely catch my breath, much less swing a punch, but I managed a few survival instincts kicking in. No way could I fight this out myself.

Luckily, I didn't have to.

My luck came in the form of a blond mountain lion. With an over abundance of testosterone, the rabid beast jumped out of the shadows, growling, bashing heads, fighting for scraps of meat.

Before I knew it, that mountain lion had turned pussycat, wrapping me safely in his arms.

"Hutch. What took you so long?"

"Nice robe."

Hutch

pov

I waved a uniformed officer over, silently asking him to assist the woman clinging to Starsky's legs.

"Take it easy on her." Starsky's blue eyes went wide. "She .. Gale…if it wasn't for her...I could be…could be…"

"Don't worry, buddy."

Giving Starsky the once over, I noted the large bump on the side of his head.

"Hutch," he muttered, his forehead falling to my chest.

"I got you."

"Get me out of here. Now," he demanded in as strong a voice as he could gather.

Starsky's face was pale and he looked like he was going to be sick. In his wiped out condition, I didn't think he could stand but he struggled and fought to get to his feet. I had no choice but to grab his arms and help him.

"My car or yours?" he asked, his eyes dancing like he might pass out on me any minute.

"Yours."

"Terrific."

I'd love to have waited for the ambulance, but judging by the way Starsky was trembling… I decided to do as he asked.

"You with me?"

It took him a few seconds to respond. "Last time I checked."

"Come on, dummy." I smiled. "Lets get out of here."

Bonus

Missing Scene

Starsky had such a tight hold on my jacket I had to pry his fingers loose.

I carefully held my shaken partner up, and paused to let him find his balance.

"Just take a minute and breathe, buddy," I said, trying to calculate his injuries.

Aside from the bump on his head, his obvious weakness, and a flaming red burn under his eye I couldn't tell where else he might be hurt. Looking around at Simon's followers and the weapons lying on the ground as they were being cuffed made my blood boil.

Knifes. Hatchets. Chains.

How many men did it take to chop one cop into pieces?

Out numbered and alone, my partner had to have gone through hell these last few hours. I watched one uniformed officer bagging the sharp weapons that now lay useless without a hand to wield them.

I shuddered, even though my mind knew Simon was nowhere near, I felt his eyes on me again. His vacant fixed stare invading my body like a deadly virus.

'Breathe, Hutchinson. Breathe. Don't think about that nut-case. Stop picturing what might have happened if you were just a few steps shy of getting to him'

I had Starsky now, right here, against my chest, holding him tight. I could feel his heart beating wildly under that stupid black robe.

Starsky was one of the toughest people I knew. But right now he was limp against me. Tired, exhausted, and hurting. Maybe I should sit him back down and wait --

"Hutch." Starsky's fingers snagged my jacket once again. "Where are you?"

"Huh?" I frowned. "Right here."

"No, I mean where's the car? How far?"

"Oh," I sighed. "Just a few hundred yards, but --"

"Can we go?" he muttered.

"Starsk."

"Hutch, please." He took a few tentative steps toward the edge. "Please," he repeated the single word so desperately his voice alone nearly removed my heart.

I nodded cautiously, wordlessly helping him down one inch at a time.

The sun ducked in and out of the clouds, but the air was hot. I watched a few rabbits scurry across the path in front of us, and the yellow topped weeds swayed in the a warm breeze as we rounded a grove of trees.

"Uhhhh," Starsky let out a soft moan, causing me to walk slower.

"Almost there," I said in a low voice.

"Where -- where are we anyway?" Starsky asked, leaning heavier against me.

"The old zoo." I took on more of his weight thinking he might drop right here.

"Kinda figured that." He nodded slowly. "Might want to get animal control up here to take care of Yogi."

"What do you mean?"

"Keeping a bear as a pet is against city code."

"A bear!" I snapped, stopping to peer into Starsky's eyes, looking for truth or exaggeration. He looked even more pale, truth I decided. "Did it…did the bear.." I peeled back the robe trying to see what horrible wounds might be hiding under the black material.

Starsky pulled away in protest. "Didn't hurt me. He squeezed his eyes shut, gingerly bringing a hand up to cup his right side.

"You going to pass out on me?" I asked, looking up I noted we were almost to the Torino. If Starsky did take a tumble, I could carry him the rest of the way.

"Not yet." He opened his eyes and gave a crooked smile, but his humor failed to amuse me.

"Come on," I said. "Car's just a few more steps."

I was torn between relief and worry. Relief because I had gotten to him in time, and worry because my friend looked so battle weary. He was sinking fast, his body becoming more and more lax with each step.

I leaned Starsky against the car. The sunlight bouncing off the hood blinded me and it took me a few seconds to find the handle.

Before I even had the door all the way open, Starsky darted for the safety of his car, scrabbling to crawl inside almost like a wounded animal crawling back into it's burrow.

"Need some help, there?" Starsky heard me, but didn't respond.

His silence told me to back off. For his sake, I took one small step backward and waited while he took his time easing down into the seat. Once he was settled I quietly closed the door and walked around to the driver side.

"Hutch," Starsky whispered, just as I slid in behind the wheel.

"What is it, buddy?" Not taking my eyes off him, I fumbled to close my door.

"Think it's about time to…"

Starsky's eyes suddenly rolled upward and to the left, his limp body collapsing sideways.

"Hey!" Surprised, I angled to cushion his fall as he fainted against me. Hey! Hey!" I patted his cheek anxiously. "Starsky!" I shook him and yelled into his ear but got no reaction, not so much as a flinch. "Starsky!"

"Waaaa….er…" Starsky stirred, coming to as fast as he'd gone under. "Wa…"

"Water," I injected, easing him upward. "One second, pal." Keeping a hand firmly anchored to Starsky's shoulder, I twisted around. Reaching into the backseat, I found yesterday's thermos. Turning back, I could hear the stale coffee sloshing around inside. "Here, you go." Quickly unscrewing the lid, I held the thermos up to his lips. "Take a sip of this."

Starsky seemed dazed, taking a few good swallows. It was then I got a better look at his puffy face and bruised chest where the robe had opened up. He was a mess, probably from over a dozen pummeling fists and who knows what else.

"Wha'," Starsky sputtered drawing my attention away from the bruises. "What is that?" he coughed, eyes watering.

"Champagne," I tried to laugh, but instead swallowed down a whimper.

"Hut --!" Starsky's throat spasmed in his panic to get a hold of the door handle.

Before I could utter a word, he was half-hanging out the open door, a splattering sound telling all.

"Easy." I scooted closer and took a firm hold of his forearm. "Take it easy."

All I could do was hold onto his arm so he wouldn't fall out, his head hanging low toward the ground, and heaving out what little he had in his belly.

After awhile, Starsky was quiet, just dangling limply half on the edge of his seat.

"Come here, buddy." I eased him back inside the car and reached over to shut his door.

"When .." Starsky breathed heavily, his head falling back against the seat. "The pipes burst…"

"They burst," I said in sympathy, seeing the slight shiver that ran through my partner. "You going to make it?" I gave a curt nod.

"Do you want an ambulance?" The strong voice near my ear nearly made me jump out of my skin.

"Captain." I jerked around to make eye contact with Dobey. "Don't do that."

"No. Hutch can drive me." Starsky answered for both of us.

"Keep me posted." Dobey quickly stepped away from the car and waved me on. Guess he figured after what Starsky had just been through he had the right to make his own calls.

I started the engine, backed the car out, put her in gear, and headed us down the road.

I gave a sideways glance at Starsky, he looked weak, scared, and his shivering seemed to increase.

"Hey, buddy." I reached over and grabbed his shoulder, maybe a little too hard because he flinched. "Sorry."

"'S okay." He inched across the seat closer to me.

"I gottcha." I wrapped my arm around his shoulder and gently tugged his head to rest on my chest. "It's over, Starsk."

"Where we going?" he mumbled

"Out for ice cream." I kept my voice light.

I felt rather than saw him smile. We both knew where.

Merle

pov

Staring into Hutchinson's eyes was like staring at an angry card shark.

He'd backed Starsky and I up until we had nowhere to go but up.

All three of us stood on the roof of his liverwurst colored hunk of junk adding more dents with each step.

Hutchinson's mouth was flapping as fast as his jacket. I caught sight of that oversized piece of steel he keeps holstered under his armpit, raising my screwdriver to stave off an attack.

Starsky, coward that he was, butt-slid down the back windshield, taking off down the street. Unlike me, he wasn't a gambler. I knew my next turn of the card would set me straight.

I hoped Starsky had bus fair to go home on. He was going to need it.

"Hey, man! I worked out the kinks." I waggled my screwdriver at Hutchinson. "Your partner's the one who slipped me the extra green and a bottle of Scotch to pimp out your ride."

It was stupid to score that job, but there was something about President Franklin's unsmiling face that brought me to economical understanding.

Lucky for me, Hutchinson bought my story.

"Starsky!" Hutchinson butt-slid down the windshield chasing after the scoundrel.

The end.